Archive for January, 2012
The family is sending pictures of my niece—the firstborn—in formal wear. It’s unsettling. It’s not her first high school dance, but it is the first one to show the transformation: a pack of sixteen-year-old girls in lounge wear coifing each other in a ring of lipstick and toe nail polish, hightop hairstyles and stacks of iPhones, until finally, dreadfully, their adulthood. Here they are assembled beautifully and stylishly with their dates; her date, an all-state football player with a thick neck and a carved Adam’s apple, whose blond swoop of hair tells me he’s a quarterback and whose confident smile and smirking eyes tells me he has an inkling of an idea of what we know now we were capable of then. And there she is, my 5’11’’ porcelain-skinned, red-haired niece: she wears a shoulderless, form-fitting cobalt blue dress that stops, she might say, mid-thigh. That is a generous estimation for a piece of fabric that could barely cover her Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animal, which, incidentally, she still has. And this is what unnerves me: They have no idea that they’re still kids.
My sister, her mom, said they’re like Chihuahuas who don’t know they’re small dogs.
And yes, these aspersions are cast from only a few photographs. She and her date are not nuzzling or anything in the images, but they’re close enough to elicit a warning from my brother, the Godfather. These comments are jokes, our familial duty; but they are jokes steeped in truth.
These images were not what I intended to write about. I had written about the return of the books we keep for our kids, The Book of Calvin and The Book of Maria. They’d been left behind at my in-laws two weeks ago and, in that time, I had the urge to add an entry. It doesn’t happen as often as it once did—these books that hold the stamp of their footprints at birth don’t even get monthly action anymore. Still, once missing, the books were missed. Their absence made them more relevant, a reminder how pleased I was that me, my wife, and our family can slow down for posterity’s sake and write a note, however infrequently.
The correlation between this and my niece in her dress with her pigskin-playing date was not apparent until now: you hold onto some things because you have to let go of others. Kid or not, my niece’s decisions are hers to make. And we write in their books for us, to remember. It will be a long time—if ever—for those books to mean as much to them as they do to us. Like my niece’s pictures.
I snore. I try not to. I try to sleep on my side. I’ve tried sleeping on my stomach but it’s like being in a headlock. So I snore. It’s worse when I’m exhausted or if I’ve been drinking. It was at its worst last weekend, sharing a cheap hotel room in Venice Beach with my two buddies.
They’ve known my snoring since college. It was occasional then. It’s guaranteed now. I promised I’d sleep on my side. Get headlocked. We’d been on the beach all afternoon, on the boardwalk all night. I was tired; I’d been drinking. I snored.
We should’ve known better than to pinch pennies by stuffing three guys in one room. We’re 36. The room was so cramped, the beds so close, that my one friend kicked me whenever I started. Our other friend left in the middle of the night. Got his own room. No one slept well. They were annoyed. I was furious. I fucked you and fucked off more than the homeless drunks outside our hotel the night before. It was 7 a.m. Vacation. No kids.
I was pissed because I tried and I failed and I knew what they felt. Nothing tries one’s patience more than being kept awake by a snorer. Thoughts turn violent. The personality you love in waking hours is, at nighttime, a contemptible fool who needs medical help. Now. What is wrong with you? Why are you doing this? Look at you. Your eyebrows. The ear hair. Get. Help. Asshole.
I know the bitterness. My brother snores. If we ever share a room, I know to get to sleep before him or spend the night in the tub. My dad has The Machine. The Mask. The CPAP. His friends sang of its sandman virtues. At first, even in the afternoon, he’d have creases in his cheeks and the bags of his eyes were purple and puffy. After more than a year and many adjustments, he has given it up. My brother and I can’t call him Lord Vader, anyway. We fear the futuristic mirror.
Dad has obstructive sleep apnea. It’s severe. Passages to the airway collapse in your sleep, you stop breathing, your oxygen levels drop, your brain shocks your body into action. You gasp. Hack. Sounds more like drowning than snoring. Then you’re back to normal. You keep snoring until the airway collapses again. This can happen dozens of times per minute. You can’t dream. You’re chronically tired. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says it can lead to other chronic illnesses, the least of which is your bedfellows hating you.
They were amused at why I was so pissed. I spewed the thoughts that had been churning since 4am, when it dawned on me that I’d ruined everyone’s night and I would henceforth be drowsily aware of every kick to my kidneys and every bark of my name. Never again would we share a room. I’d get the breathe-right strips; I’d prop myself up; I’d get breakfast.
How does my wife do it, they wondered. She falls asleep first. I’m not drinking. She says it’s not that bad otherwise. The only time I share a room with you meatheads is when we’re drinking, I told them. Self-preservation of the friendship.
The next night we got a suite. I got the pull out. From the bedroom, door closed, my one friend said it sounded like I was getting choked, dying. Sounds like apnea. Sounds like I can no longer sleep on it.